Learn to evaluate the risks and rewards of subdividing land into residential lots. In this first of three articles on the subject, a developer and real estate lawyer provides landowners specific items to evaluate when considering whether or not to subdivide land. Come back for the next articles in this series that provide insights for landowners based on the author’s real world experiences with the subdivision process, as well as a hands-on description of the steps landowners should take when subdividing land.
Investors look for future potential. A priority would be to look at a municipal developmeant plan to see if the property is within a plan area. Personally, I would never invest in land that is not already under a municipal area structure plan. If you want to take a risk, you could look for land that was in the obvious path of development and be prepared to hold the land for a very long period of time.
1. I never use loans when I buy vacant land, because I’m able to get my properties very, very cheap (and I’m only able to do this because I know where/how to find motivated sellers). Most banks won’t lend directly on land UNLESS you have an immediate plan to build on it – and this is why seller financing can be such a helpful tool when selling land (because most buyers will need it in order to do the transaction).
Maurice "Moe" Veissi, president elect of the National Association of Realtors says that the first step in negotiating a fair land deal is to make sure that it’s a clinical, not an emotional purchase. When it comes to a land purchase it is not unlike buying a car, he says. For example, would you purchase a new car without knowing what it is you want, what price are you willing to pay, and what the average purchase price is for the car you are eyeing?
Particularly in popular neighborhoods and areas where undeveloped space is limited, purchasing existing property for the sole purpose of building a new structure on the land is fairly common. In many cases, developers and building companies will redevelop multiple properties in a neighborhood, knowing buyers will eat up new, bigger homes where midcentury ranch houses once stood.
Great information.. l just acquired a parcel of land on the coast with a beautiful ocean view. The city says it can be broken into three or maybe four lots. It has all at street , water sewer, electricity, etc. for one lot., lm to old to fool with it and needed some ideas of how to market it , pre Estate sale. Your list gives me lots of ideas, where l had none. Thank you so much….

All properties are sold for cash or hard money. Buyers responsibility to do your own due diligence and verify all information. Prices are NET to seller with buyer paying all closing costs. Opinions of value / rents are given as a courtesy and no guarantees are expressed or implied. Our properties move fast so contact us quickly if there is a property you want to purchase.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use Craigslist, another option is Facebook. Mark said, “right now, people are selling all day long on buy/sell groups on Facebook.” However, these are not the typical real estate buy/sell groups. “They’re going to Craigslist buy/sell groups, recreational vehicles buy/sell groups, hunting buy/sell groups, or fishing buy/sell groups.”
You also need to confirm that each of your planned lots will be properly serviced. Most homeowners expect to face a public road (with adequate frontage) and have water, sewer, power and other utilities available. So be sure to confirm both that typical utilities are available for your lots and that they will have the capacity to handle the load from any new homes that would be built on the subdivided lots. Do your research and have your surveyor locate water, sewer, gas, electricity and other utility lines and infrastructure on your plan.
Disclaimer: The information published in this section is of a general nature only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Where indicated, third parties have written and supplied the content and we are not responsible for it. We make no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information, nor do we accept any liability or responsibility arising in any way from omissions or errors contained in the content. We do not recommend sponsored lenders or loan products and we cannot introduce you to sponsored lenders. We strongly recommend that you obtain independent advice before you act on the content.
I have lived on this property for 20yrs. Its in Harrison county in WV, I have been trying to buy it for 20yrs. I have a doublewide on a permanent foundation, a 16×16 permanent building, a pool with a 40×60 deck around it, all underground utilities, septic tank with fields, and $10,000 road and parking to the house, THIS IS ALL INVESTED BY ME,, this was all on a verbal family deal , (a hand shake like in the old days, when your word actually meant something) and we were supposed to be the first option to purchase if sold , now they have put it up for sale, we have offered them $1,000 over asking, they have not accepted our offer, they have continued to keep advertising the property for sale, what are my rights as a buyer when this situation occurs as a buyer that has a dwelling on this property for 20yrs.
Hey Seth, as always great article! I found the free online marketing ideas (like posting on Craigslist) especially creative and helpful. Thanks so much for helping me through the stressful process of selling my home. Since you asked what other creative tips I’ve found–I read this eBook in my research and found it so helpful that I thought I’d post it here in the chance that it could help someone else. Here it is: https://www.homelight.com/sell-your-house-online-ebook

It was a very simple process. Even though everything was done remotely, it was just as good as if I was standing in front of the person doing the deal. Paperwork was received really shortly after I spoke with Jake. We got it all signed, sent it back, and shortly thereafter we received the money. Everything was done very simply and it was very easy to do.


I have done business with landcentury for 5 years now. I am very pleased with the experience I have had with them, and have always found them to operate with honesty, integrity, and dedication. They are committed to offering the best price while making sure they are selling a property that they believe a real estate buyer will be happy with. They are available, quick to answer calls or return messages, and always cooperative and accommodating. I would very strongly recommend landcentury.com to anyone.
The listings on Fizber are pretty basic, and like most of the sites on this list – they're geared towards properties with improvements. The site gets a respectable amount of traffic (given that it's focused solely on the real estate crowd), but it's not quite in the same ballpark as Zillow or Craigslist. Overall, it's not a bad option to work with, especially if you're interested in blasting your listings out to the MLS as well.
Do you have land that you would like to sell and are unsure of how to progress? We welcome your call, whether it's to sell or buy land. You can be sure of a helpful and professional approach. We utilise the latest software and systems to source and sell land, enabling us to assess land parcels quickly and appraise the planning potential for most sites, saving you time and money.
Thanks for the article Seth. Very informative. Vacant land is one of those types of property I’m coming across in my search for good deals on houses. I’ve been a little brave offering people a cash offer for their lot. Only to find out later the parcel has a myriad of challenges. (Most of which could be dealt with-time and money, but still not worth it). Thankfully nobody took the deals yet. I have learned a lot and gained more understanding. I am closer to getting raw land at a great price that is build-able! Articles like yours, helps guys like me, stay focused and saved from troubles! As we know the bigger the challenges and unknowns the higher the risk-and the payday. Tread carefully.
Very interesting read. I am looking at some desert land in both NV and AZ. They are between 40-80 acres each. My budget seems to afford places that either have an old well, or power at the lot line, but not both. Which utility do you feel is initially more critical to have of the two? I know adding a solar system or having power brought in is very cost prohibitive, so my thought was to go with the power on the lot. I figured I could always have water trucked in and stored in a tank since the properties are easily 2WD road accessible. I figure that buying property with an old well may be worthless and not worth the price increase of the property. And I have been reading that drilling a well is a gamble. Thanks in advance for some insight.

You always have the option of selling your land through a professional which is your real estate agent. There are some significant benefits to doing this when you are looking for a quick sale. These experts have the training and expertise for selling property. They also have a large database of potential buyers. Then they have ready access to many more forms of marketing that you as a private seller may not have. This includes selling through the internet. Most have high profile sites set up that draws traffic from interested buyers. If you are attempting to sell your property online you probably don’t have this same outreach.
I worked with Grace Chang in liquidating a mortgage I held on property my late husband and I had owned. It was probably the easiest land related business deal I have ever been involved with. Grace was knowledgeable, informed and available. She was in contact with me and I never had a question she was unable to answer. I was amazed at how quickly the transaction happened; which was far quicker than estimated at the onset. It is refreshing to do business with an organization that has such wonderful customer service and professional business associates. I would highly recommend First National and specifically Grace to everyone.read more
There is swampy/nonbuildable property next to me that is landlocked by 5 residential properties. We are interested in purchasing it – yes, we want landlocked swampland. We spoke to the owner who said he wants to sell it at whatever the going rate is for vacant land. Prior to offering him a very lowball offer, we’d like to gather resources that show the property’s true “potential” so that we don’t offend him. Other than a printout of a map, is there something more official we can acquire that shows he is landlocked? Also, the tax record shows the property’s assessed tax value is 100k, which is definitely inaccurate. Is there a way to have that reassessed to reflect its true tax value? We heard through a neighbor that it is recorded as nonbuildable and he doesn’t have to pay taxes, but I have not been able to find anywhere to verifiy that. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!!!

If this process overwhelms you, consider hiring a land broker. A land broker will take a commission but they will handle all of the above for you. Hopefully they will price the property so that you make almost as much as you would have without hiring the land broker meanwhile it saves you a lot of time and hassle. I do not recommend working with a land broker who charges a flat upfront fee even if the property doesn't sell as there is no built-in incentive for them to sell the property. Keep on top of them and make sure they are doing their job. Unless the commission is hefty, a land broker isn't going to care as much about selling your land and may end up just listing it on their own website and letting it sit there forever. Communicate regularly with your land broker so your listing remains a priority for them even if it's just to get you off their back!

And consider that the developer may not really “need” your property, and may just be looking into options for improving the entrance to the community. It’s worth noting that a more beautifully landscaped or designed community entrance adjacent to your 10 acre property could increase your property’s value. Also, building a friendly relationship with the developer may lead to a buyer for your property in the future.


I like the suggestion to send out neighbor letters to the surrounding property owners. That is a great way to get the word out that you are selling your land. When I went to sell my land, I made sure to tell my neighbors or post of social media and every other platform in order to allow more people to see that my lot was for sale. I ended up way over my original price and with a good buyer that built his family a home there.
Hi Seth – very helpful blog indeed. I have recently been given the opportunity to buy the 6-acre wooded lot, zoned residential, that adjoins my already-owned 3-acre lot for $64k. I know the terrain of the 6-acres quite well as I’ve had to chase my dogs all through it when they get loose. On the back end is a power line right-of-way, so certainly nothing will be built behind it. It does have a site cleared for up to a 4-bedroom home, a “proposed” well location, and although the site will not perk, the seller has an off-site discharge permit issued from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for a sewage disposal system. The owner will finance, with $998 down payment and $688/mo for 10 years, but that comes out to a LOT of money for 6 acres so I would likely come up with 40 percent down on my own, and pay off the rest with a personal, lower-interest loan. My concerns when it comes to land, especially as an investment: would the monthly payment for the land not be better spent to pay down my existing mortgage? Or, would the monthly payment for the land not be better invested in something with a higher rate of return? Of course, from a diversification standpoint the land may make perfect sense. I live (and the land is located) in an area mid-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA – – – an area that is growing like mad. I have a tough time believing that in the 15 years I have left until I retire I would LOSE money on the investment. And unlike a 401k or an IRA, which can disappear overnight should an economy tank, land will never be totally worthless. I would not actually DO anything with the land (aside from perhaps harvesting some firewood) other than to HOLD it for 15 years until I retire and leave this area.
I’m sure it could be done. I actually live in a subdivision that started exactly like how you’re describing back in the 70’s. I think it can be a pretty big speculative gamble unless you’re absolutely certain that there’s a huge demand for what you’re creating… but if you end up being right, you could easily make millions (depending on how big of a project you’re looking at).
Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. That’s a pretty subjective question (there are a lot of variables to consider), but I don’t see how it could hurt the value of your overall estate. The question is – what is the land actually worth? Is it worth more or less than $25K? One way to find out would be to follow the ideas in this blog post. As long as the property is worth substantially more than $25K (and assuming you actually want the additional land), it’s probably a worthwhile investment… but again – it’s impossible for me to tell you anything concrete without looking at everything (which I can’t really do).
The main problem you will be faced with when you go to sell land online is that you have to create an imaginary future for that land that the potential buyer will see and buy into. It is simply not enough to say “hey, I want to sell my land fast” you need to work with the buyer to create that vision of what the land can do for that potential new owner.
And I know what you mean about the assessed value – this number means almost nothing in my mind, because the county will usually peg this number as high as possible, because it allows them to charge more in tax revenue for the property. I think you can get it reassessed in many cases, but there usually aren’t any guarantees that your request will get traction, and the process isn’t necessarily fast or easy. It may be worth your while to call the local tax collector and just ask them how much the annual tax bill is – that should tell you pretty quickly what the obligation would be.

This website gives sellers the option of listing their properties on the MLS for a flat fee (without signing a contract with a real estate agent). Granted – this extra feature isn't free, but it's a nice little premium tool that isn't offered by most of the other platforms on this list – and considering what a HUGE additional audience the MLS represents, I thought it was worth pointing this out.
anyone interesting in commercial land on busy road? very close to i279 north of pittsburgh pa area and its permit allow to rebuild home or parking lot or something of business as well. last price value is 12 k but not sure what it is worth in value it is on 3856 east street... 15214... 2041 sq feet formerly warehouse was there and the land is cleared out... with fence...
A major issue that we see when people try to sell property to their friends is that they’ll cut breaks for their friends. Perhaps their friend doesn’t have the money, so they’ll allow for later payment while transferring the property to their friend. Always ensure that you are engaging in a business deal that is within your best interests. If your friend does not have the money to buy the land, have a contract written up with payment details and guidelines. Never trust someone blindly - this is a business deal and should be treated as one despite your friendship.

If six stars were possible, Terrell Wade and the team at FNAC would deserve that high of a rating. Terrell worked with me on purchasing a deed of trust that was part of my parent's estate. The transaction was tricky because of paperwork complications, that the house was now a rental, and that the owners spoke no English. Terrell patiently guided the owners through the process, had to reassure them at several times, and successfully closed the deal even though it took nearly 6 months. The price we received was fair and I cannot speak highly enough of the work and end result that was accomplished by FNAC. S,T,White, Manager RCR, LLCread more
Hello and thank you for this great topic. I have about 4 acres of land in on my residential property. My home is on the river with a dock etc and has about 1.5 acres itself. I have these 4 parcels of land that can be developed into residential properties yet I have no idea how to approach a developer. There is easy access to the main road and I have been told I could subdivide these plots and also provide river access via a trail running along the side of my house, that wouldn’t actually interfere with my main home at all. Should I simply put a sign up advertising these available lots or should I contact private home builders in the area. The home is in a highly sought after area where many would like to build homes. The previous owners told me they had been offered well over $1.6m for the lots but turned them down.(They were elderly and didn’t want to sell just the land). Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed! Thank you!
Consider your own needs when pricing, and understand how pricing could impact buyers’ interest. When selling real estate, you sometimes have to choose between getting the highest price and possibly selling quicker. Plus, your pricing may be influenced if you need to sell for financial reasons. In addition to your own situation, pricing your property ultimately requires an understanding of the land market as a whole, why people are buying lots or land in that area and who these people are. A good real estate agent with land expertise can help greatly in this process.
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